Commonwealth Journal

Local News

November 22, 2013

SPD officer gets license back on technicality

Somerset — A local police sergeant facing a DUI charge is getting his license thanks to a legal technicality.

Pulaski District Judge Scott Lawless on Friday ordered that Somerset Police Department Sgt. Jason Griffith’s license be reinstated after special prosecutor Kevin Shearer acknowledged that Griffith had not been read an implied consent warning before refusing a Breathalyzer test on the night of his arrest.

Griffith, 41, of Somerset, was arrested Sunday, Oct. 27 by Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Officer Lucas Tucker and charged with one count of operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol after Tucker pulled Griffith over at the intersection of East Ky. 80 and Ky. 914.

Griffith pleaded not guilty to that charge during an arraignment Monday.

According to the arrest citation, Tucker allegedly saw Griffith “driving at a high rate of speed on (Ky.) 80 ... crossing all lanes, going into the grass and shoulder on both sides of the road.”

Tucker also wrote in the citation that he smelled “a strong odor of (an) alcoholic beverage” on Griffith. Griffith was also allegedly swaying while standing outside the Ford F-150 he was driving when he was pulled over.

Griffith was not on duty when the arrest happened.

Tucker also reported that Griffith refused field sobriety tests and a Breathalyzer test, and Shearer during Monday’s arraignment moved to have Griffith’s license suspended.

Under the state’s implied consent law, those driving a vehicle in Kentucky are deemed to have given their consent to sobriety tests. If tests are refused, that may be used against the defendant in court as aggravating evidence of committing a DUI — but that only holds true if the defendant is warned of the consequences that stem from such a refusal.

Tucker apparently failed to read Griffith the implied consent warning during the arrest.

“Having discussed the matter, the Commonwealth agrees and stipulates that the arresting officer failed to administer the implied consent warning to the defendant at the location where the Breathalyzer was to be administered,” states Lawless’ order. “ ... the implied consent warning must be read in order to effectively suspend a defendant’s license under this section.

“Without the implied consent, the refusal may not form the basis of a pretrial license suspension pursuant to law,” the order continues.

Lawless ordered that Griffith’s license be reinstated immediately.

Griffith’s attorney, Scott Foster, said state law mandates that every defendant is read an implied consent warning, no mater whether they already know the law or not.

“Even though (Griffith) is a police officer, the law applies equally to him as to anybody else,” said Foster. “He’s got to be treated like every other citizen.”

A suspension hearing, set for this Tuesday in Russell County, has been canceled. A new hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 15, 2024 in Pulaski District Court.

Foster, who has emphasized Griffith’s “unblemished” record during his 15 years with the Somerset Police Department, has also said he takes issue with whether Tucker had the authority to carry out an arrest.

Foster has said state statute limits the legal jurisdiction of Kentucky Fish and Wildlife officers, pointing out that KRS 150.090 limits conservation officers’ powers to that of enforcement of laws and regulations directly related to fish and wildlife jurisdiction.

But Foster said that section also states that a “life-threatening” situation — something he said is open to interpretation — may give a fish and wildlife officer the power to carry out something like a DUI arrest. Foster said the question he intends to bring up is whether the Oct. 27 situation was a “life-threatening” one.

But, in a long-standing precedent used by state authorities, the Kentucky State Police in the 1990s officially asked that Fish and Wildlife help the agency enforce all laws.  

In a letter signed by Kentucky State Police (KSP) Commissioner Rodney Brewer and sent to Jon Gassett, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Brewer sought to “affirm and clarify ... that Conservation Officers assist the Kentucky State Police in enforcing all criminal laws of the Commonwealth.”

Griffith was suspended from his SPD duties with pay the Monday after his arrest.

According to SPD’s disciplinary section of its personnel manual, which was obtained by the Commonwealth Journal through an unrelated July 2013 open records request, criminal complaints filed against an SPD employee generally result in either the paid or unpaid suspension of the employee until criminal proceedings are completed.

Also included in the section is a statement that any decision handed down in court that may favor the employee (as in the employee has been found innocent, or the case has been dismissed), administrative action from within the department may still be carried out.

 

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Mayor Girdler.jpg Bill puts freeze on occupational tax funds

    An addition to the late-passed Kentucky Transportation Cabinet budget contains an Easter egg of sorts that could have a substantial impact on Pulaski County — although Somerset’s mayor is downplaying it.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brenzel and LCRH sign cmyk.jpg Brenzel steps down as LCRH CEO

    Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital (LCRH) has announced that CEO Mark Brenzel has decided to step down from the top leadership position.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • recycling.ht.jpg Science Hill elementary students promote recycling

    For one group of Science Hill Independent students, taking out the trash isn’t something they avoid.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • carrie dixon-wiese.jpg Local housing facility subject of $349,000 lawsuit

    A local housing facility is the subject of a lawsuit in U.S. Eastern District Court, with several major entities named as defendants — though the Somerset city attorney notes that’s actually more for their protection.
    The defendants listed included the City of Somerset, Somerset Independent Board of Education, and Pulaski County government, as well as the company Somerset East Mt. Vernon Associates, Ltd.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Last rescue adopted pic.jpg Last of dogs rescued from Nancy kennel is adopted

    The last of 27 dogs housed at a Louisville animal rescue center after they were taken from a western Pulaski County puppy mill in a January raid has found a permanent home.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pulaski gets small share of road money

    Some $200 million worth of road-building projects in Pulaski County during the past decade likely is the reason this county got only a tiny share in the two-year road plan hammered out by the General Assembly during the session that adjourned late Tuesday.

    April 17, 2014

  • LaDonna Hurd.jpg Local firefighter dies from injuries suffered in fall at skating rink

    The community’s move to rally around a local volunteer firefighter, nurse, and single mother injured while roller skating has taken on a more tragic note.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • LAKE-FISHING FOTO.JPG Rising lake levels are improving area fishing conditions

    The rising level of Lake Cumberland is covering banks that have been bare for seven years and increasing habitat for game fish such as bass, bluegill and crappie.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ebenstein, Jacob.jpg Local man receives 12 1/2 years in DUI death of teen

    An entire courtroom on Thursday was moved to tears by parents who spoke of the loss of their 19-year-old son during a sentencing for the man who pleaded guilty in his death.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • City agencies dealing with gas leak

    From the Somerset Police Department:

    If you use East University Drive between KY 1247 and KY 39 or live in the area, your drive may be affected by a gas pipeline leak.

     

    April 17, 2014

News Live
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Facebook
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks